• Claire Dunnett

Quality V's Quantity

This is an absolute no brainer for me but never the less it is a subject that seems to crop up in conversation with customers and the media a lot more often than I would ever have realised.

Let me explain......

Only too often do I receive random phone calls from large advertising houses and magazines who start asking questions about my chunky knits and business model.

Phone conversations often start with "Would it be possible to speak to whoever is in charge of marketing please?' Obviously this makes me smile and 'Yes, that would be me!' is always the reply.

However flattering I find the lovely conversations that I have with others where they are oohing and aaahing about my designs, at the end of the day it all comes down to me to make the decisions.

Now, as much as my Dunnknit Designs business is my 'baby' and I am extremely proud of what I have achieved so far as a 'One girl band', I find myself contemplating what the future holds and where will the business take me in the future. (If only I had a crystal ball)

It's a year later this month since I officially started Dunnknit Designs and although I feel as if I have never worked so hard in my entire life, it has been the most enjoyable experience ever too!

Over the last 12 months I have designed and made a complete catalogue of Chunky Knits of which I am very proud and customers are beginning to come back for more. Here's a taster of what's available at Dunnknit Designs.

Dunnknit Designs has grown immensely over the last 12 months and I am now at the point where I have a lovely steady flow of orders with a steady income. (how lucky am I?) I am able to pay personal attention to customers and communicate as I would expect as a customer myself. I know every inch of the business inside and out as 'I do everything!' From taking orders to making and processing the chunky knits to packaging and arranging courier services. It all comes down to little old me.

Now the best part of my job is the fact that I am able to pay every ounce of attention to customers, my Chunky knit designs and lets not forget my Merino Artwork which I adore. I love discussing bespoke items and commission pieces with customers when they have a specific request and love nothing more that making a special item and sending it off to a very happy customer.

However, the attention is in the detail for me. It starts by treating the giant Merino Wool with care when it is in its initial delicate state, then on to taking my time actually making the item where I pay scrupulous attention to detail. For example, I don't just whip up a blanket before a coffee break, I take my time. I ensure that stitches are even, sizes are correct and eventually that the finished, processed, tagged item is as perfect as it can be and this takes time and lots of it. Time which I feel such a beautiful, expensive medium such as Giant Merino Wool fully deserves.

Even when packaging an item, I use a tonal colour of tissue paper to enhance the visual introduction to a new item and once safely packaged in its box, I cover the boxes with white polythene sheeting to protect the Chunky Knits or Artwork from being damaged on it's journey to it's new home.

I'm meticulous about neat and tidy packaging and I always include a handwritten card too! I love communicating with customers. I'll always let you know when your order is ready to be shipped with tracking and courier details where necessary so you'll know exactly when to expect your parcel. I want nothing more than a happy customer who has bought an original Dunnknit Designs item that will last forever!

So it comes to the question of..... 'Can you keep such a high standard of quality when larger quantities are needed?'

To me the answer is quite simply 'No!' not without outsourcing for help anyway, in which case in my view quality often suffers.

Do I want to expand Dunnknit Designs to be a Merino Wool empire making huge quantities of my designs?

No, I don't! I'm more than happy making my one of a kind designs where quality is key.

Do I want Dunnknit Designs to grow bigger to the point where I need to expand and look for knitters and crocheters to make my designs for me?

Definitely not! I am a designer and maker through and through who has emanated from an artistic background where quality and individuality is of the utmost importance. To me, each and every item that I make is a work of art and has a personality of its own. This is the joy of working with a natural product. It is never quite the same each time.

Yes items are similar and in order to even have a catalogue of Chunky knits to sell, there has to be an element of uniformity to a certain degree. For example a particular item will always be made to a certain size and colour but the sheer element of 'Handmade' is what makes products special and individual. To those of us who love 'Handmade' this is exactly what draws us to them. The basic fact that no two are exactly the same and that no-one else will have one exactly the same as you is very exciting.

So here I find myself being busy getting ready for Christmas. I don't spread myself thinly by attending every fair going. I'm not continually making stock like a factory, just like I'm not pushing and advertising my Etsy shop continually. Nearly all of my work is by 'word of mouth' and through my Dunnknit Designs website and I am blissfully busy and loving every minute.

After all I gave up teaching after 24 years in order to do something that I love and I am doing just that. I can honestly say that every single item that I make is made with the absolute utmost of attention to detail. It is never outsourced to someone else, made in a rush or skimped on time in any shape or form. I am very proud of every single thing that I make and continue to be constantly thinking of what design or landscape I could do next.

My sketch book is permanently on the go. I absolutely love both knitting, crocheting and needle art and love the fact that whatever my next idea might be, I can usually somehow, figure out a way of making it, often with the help of my lovely Dad too.

Sometimes 'Knitting' is best suited to a particular design where as other designs may suit a 'Crocheted' method of working best. Plus, I love nothing better than when I can mix both knitting and crocheting together in a design. Plus, Dad is always on hand to make new sized Giant knitting needles, crochet needles, cable needles, buttons and toggles in all shapes and sizes. I am a very lucky and forever grateful daughter and I know that Dad loves every minute of making new things too.

I am very proud of my creative designs, the quality of the makes and the durability and long lasting factor which has been well and truly tested. I've given many items names which in itself gives them a personality and different colours often enhance certain designs beautifully. Plus the fact that all of the names have a very personal meaning to me and those closest to me.

Anyone who knows me, will know that I'm not usually one to shout from the rooftops about my work, but I am a firm believer that good will and hard work will always shine through. I hope this shows in my work. There is nothing nicer than receiving a lovely message from a customer telling you that their purchase is up there with the best thing that they have ever bought and was worth every penny. Hearing this three times only this week has been absolute job satisfaction. (A big thank you! I'm sure you know who you are.)

All in all, I am an absolute advocate of 'Quality over Quantity'. Only too often do you hear of new businesses that start off making stunning items that become popular and in no time at all demand begins to be so high that quality starts to suffer! This will not happen to Dunnknit Designs. I will always discuss delivery timescales with customers at busy times of the year rather than cut corners and drop quality standards.

My designs are all unique to me and I have drawn, experimented, tried and tested each and every one of them. There's been many frustrating days and many immediate successes but every single day working in my Cheshire studio is an absolute joy.

I am a constant thinker! In between making orders I'm always working on the next thing. How I could adapt a design, add a different detail, how I could change a shape of a design to make something new. I never stop and this is exactly where job satisfaction is at and the reality that I know that I have made the right decision to change my career path.

The future is so exciting.........and if you've stuck with me until now in this blog than I'll let you in on a secret.

In my sketchbook I star designs that I absolutely adore. They may be a slight variation of an existing design or even a completely new design that hasn't hit the website yet. However, they are definitely one off, unique pieces that are REALLY special that no one else will have.

Over the last few months I have been busy making a handful of these one off, REALLY special unique designs from my ever expanding sketchbook and as a Dunnknit Designs 1st Birthday treat I have decided to offer a few of them to you lovely lot at bargain prices.

But when is it going to happen?

Well the answer is very soon, but for now I suggest you keep an eye on Instagram and Facebook over the next week or so and you might just get a sneaky peek at what will be on offer. There might even be a shout out email too so keep checking!

Until next time, wishing you all a warm and cosy weekend,

Claire x

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